Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

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Piglets: The Maiden Voyage

2/28/2014 4:31:00 PM

Tags: Polyface Farm, farm internship, beginning farmers, Kristen Kilfoyle

Dan’s text to me Thursday afternoon: “Do you want to go look at piglets on Saturday morning?”

My text back: “YESYESYESYESYESYES yay”

Piglet QuestYoung Pig On a Fence

We had a hard time finding pigs. I guess I shouldn’t say a hard time… It was just more challenging than I expected. It didn’t occur to me that heritage breed cross piglets would be hard to find, but it probably should have, given how popular pasture raised meat has become in our area. I started checking Craigslist in late January, but as soon as an ad for piglets went up, it came down – sold out. I poked around on a few farm websites, same story. Former producers weren't selling or were retiring. My fruitless search went on for a few weeks, which is why Dan’s Thursday afternoon text was so exciting.

Earlier that week, Dan had found a farm through Craigslist whose sows were due that Thursday and Friday and was now accepting deposits to hold the piglets until they were ready to leave. I was chomping at the bit mainly because I didn’t want us to miss out, but I’m also tired of winter and the idea of securing animals for the farm makes me feel like spring is actually coming, thus the appointment was made.

We left at 6:30am on Saturday for the three hour trip to the pig farm. It was a bit of an experience, as there had been some melting the day before followed by a cold evening (not quite luge conditions, but you get the idea), my GPS sorely needs updating, and I realized I forgot my camera (Sorry, I know I promised pictures...), but we got there eventually. The sows and their piglets were housed in a high tunnel with roomy farrowing stalls, each with a special piglet only heated section. I had read about the importance of piglet safe havens in books, but it wasn’t until one of the sows, who was still in labor, almost squashed one of her new babies while trying to lie down that I really understood why this part of a farrowing stall is non-negotiable. The farmer seemed unfazed and, quite cleverly in my opinion, used a rake to scoop the piglet out of harm’s way. This is why I am anxiously awaiting the start date of my Polyface internship (June 1st, but who's counting?). One cannot simply read their way into being a good farmer.

Pigwam! (Get it?)

The next adventure is to make their housing. I had an idea for a pig wigwam, a pigwam if you will, but the idea clearly needs more research. I have a feeling Dan will end up building their living quarters, but I’ll keep everyone posted. And I promise I won’t forget my camera.

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